The astonishing safety of naturist men is what started it for me in the first place.
On my very first day as a naturist, in May 2016, (I must have been at the venue about two hours) I’d been for a swim, then I took a shower. At that point, the absence of gendered facilities was still a surprise. When I’d arrived I’d expected, daft as it seems now, to be shown to the ladies’ changing rooms, there to remove all my clothes to then emerge into public space where both women and men were naked– and that was the moment I realised I just hadn’t thought this through.
It was also the moment when the radical fact of naturism hit me square between the eyes.
But a lifetime’s conditioning still whispered that the sexes don’t do certain things together, because that’s not… what? Decent? The expected thing? Safe? I went on looking for the sign with the little girl doll figure on: the one for the ‘ladies’’ changing room. Except that… there wasn’t one.
Eventually I found the shared shower. In it were three men and me, all of us visitors who didn’t know the ropes. The jets were operated with 20p pieces: how long was the money we’d put in the slot going to last? If the water stopped, could we find more 20ps whilst chilly and slippery with shampoo and soap – and anyway, where was the slot to put them in? I can’t see a thing without my contact lenses, rendering me useless in a strange changing room, so what with the soap and the bubbles and the squinting and having no clue where anything was – not to mention the absolute novelty of no-one wearing any clothes – the whole thing became pretty funny.
We laughed a lot and then one brave soul scampered round and managed to feed the meter. I remember the very clear thought: this is mad. This is not how they tell you that people behave, but here we are. There is nothing abnormal, or threatening, or difficult about this at all.
Since then, there’ve been plenty of times just the same. My own club maintains a careful balance in gender (some members feel strongly that this is the right thing to do) but at certain places and times it’s just me and the men. And it’s not that I don’t mind; to say you don’t mind something means there’s a problem really. I truly enjoy the energy of naturist males.
There’s a reason, after all, why people attach the word ‘tension’ to the word ‘sexual’. It’s not a bad thing: such situations are exciting. It’s just that you don’t always want to be tense. Male energy, in all its power, can exist and be warm and strong without sexual threat.
I’m trusting my judgement here. I can do so because it’s a judgement I’ve earned: it took decades, and several trips round the block. This is real, all right. I’m just not at all sure that we’re meant to find it out.
It’s not been my journey to experience a gulf between the genders. And now it’s entirely gone: naturist men are companions, safe to be around, dressed or undressed. I have far more in common with brothers who share my beliefs and ideas about the world than with sisters who don’t.
And when it’s not so: if you meet a man in a naturist setting and realise – instinct will tell you – that this isn’t right, it’s not safe, that he’s hot to be there, that he’s overly liking the view… then it’s him who’s off line, and not you. We all live in skin: we can live in it peacefully together.
This is going to start a revolution. Mixed gender nakedness turns the world on its head. It affirms that a whole lot of things we’ve been told about how things have to be – just don’t have to be at all. It tells us that things will be very different tomorrow.